What was the literary context in which American Renaissance writers wrote and published? How did now-canonical writers respond to popular literary forms?
What literature was published and read during the Civil War? How did literature help make sense of the war and the profound changes it brought to the nation?
How did images shape the meaning of the war for people at home and the meaning of the home during wartime?
How do maps tell the early history of Chicago and the Midwest? How have maps been used by different empires and nations to secure control of the region?
How did Twain’s Huckleberry Finn engage and challenge popular ideas about slavery and race in nineteenth-century America? Can a text be offensive and still be worth reading?
What were social conditions in Mexico before and after independence from Spain? How was the struggle for independence shaped by internal conflicts between people of different social castes?
How did people interpret the events of the American Revolution in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries? How did the meaning of the Revolution change over time? In what ways has the Revolution meant different things to different people at any given time?
How has the West been imagined as both America’s manifest destiny and a wild frontier? In what ways do American Indian art and literature challenge these popular narratives of the West?
What role has immigration played in the formation of America’s national identity and ideals? How have Americans understood and debated the social effects of immigration? How have immigrants portrayed their experiences and contributed to these debates themselves?
What are the relationships between social mobility and spatial mobility in American culture? In what ways do we associate movement—the ability to go anywhere and be anyone—with freedom? How do these relationships change when women are the ones on the move?
What is the context for Shakespeare’s Roman plays? What were his sources? Why did classical Rome capture the interest of people in Renaissance England?
In 1870, three-quarters of the United States lived in rural areas; by 1920, over half the nation lived in cities. How, if at all, did religious communities change their inherited traditions in the midst of new surroundings?